Voices of the Bar 5/26/16: What SCOTUS Case Means the Most to You?

It could be that the ruling has had a profound impact on society, or on one specific attorney’s practice or personal life. It could simply be that the facts of the case are incredibly interesting. Whatever the reason, everyone has a Supreme Court case they love to talk about

For attorneys, our question this week is an evergreen one, but an upcoming program on the U.S. Supreme Court prompts us to ask:

“What SCOTUS case means the most to you?

Carol Starkey – Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford
“The case that had the greatest impact on me personally, and in my view, on the country as a whole, was Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S.  (2015), the landmark Unites States Supreme Court case in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Justice Kennedy pointed to the evolution of our understanding of injustice when he wrote, “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.” And so it was with the Obergefell decision.”

Joseph Molina Flynn – Molina Flynn Law Offices
“My favorite SCOTUS case is Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), because it is the most impactful to my practice. The Court in Padilla held that criminal attorneys must advise their clients regarding the potential immigration consequences of their pleas prior to accepting a plea agreement. In Massachusetts, this case has been applied retroactively. Padilla’s holding helps immigration practitioners advocate for the vacating of plea agreements entered into prior to 2010 which can sometimes be our clients’ only avenue to fight deportation.”

Christopher Saccardi – The Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi
“My favorite SCOTUS case is Callins v. Collins, 510 U.S. 1141 (1994). In an otherwise relatively routine case, Justice Blackmun chose, in a surprising dissent, to renounce twenty years of support for the death penalty, writing that because he had little confidence it could ever be administered fairly, ‘From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.’ I have always been impressed by the courage it took to for Justice Blackmun to so publicly change his position and that he did so with such eloquence.”

Elizabeth Surette – Overclocked Legal
Cohen v. California: Free speech protection is the whole reason I went to law school. That case is the one which reminds us of the importance of protecting speech we disapprove of or even hate, as the right to free speech is the one on which all others are predicated. ‘One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.'”

Robert Crabtree – Kotin, Crabtree & Strong
“For its eventual effects on my practice as a special education attorney and in shaping my vision of what our national community can accomplish when circumstances fall into place, there has been no more impactful Supreme Court decision than Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), issued when I was nine years old.   Though its pronouncements may have proven more aspirational than actual in the short term, and though fear and bigotry continues to spawn resistance against its meaning and implementation for the disenfranchised of all kinds through the decades, its ringing emphasis on the centrality of education for the effective functioning of our social and political lives and the clarity with which the Court dismissed the disingenuous fiction  of “separate but equal” stand secure.  Said the Court: “it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.”  Amen to that.  The Court was unanimous in Brown.  One might look to the work done by its members to achieve that unanimity for the good of our body politic, in spite of deep political and philosophical differences among them, as a model for our own time.   One might also take the Court’s achievement in that case as a reminder of the critical importance of selecting persons of good will, strong intelligence and compassion to fill its seats as we approach election time in these, our own bitter and divided times.”

Mina Makarious – Anderson & Kreiger
“Is there a more aptly named case than Loving v. Virginia? For me, that case is an emphatic reminder of how courts can ameliorate hate and spark positive change.  I am Egyptian-American.  My wife is of French-Canadian/Irish heritage.  While I don’t know exactly how Virginia courts would have viewed our marriage before Loving, I know I’m blessed to have been born in a generation where two folks that look like we do don’t have to think about that issue, or worry about the state’s approval.  I hope that in a generation Goodridge and Obergefell are viewed the same way.”

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at lditullio@bostonbar.org.